The Difference Between Us

By Jill Osier

Featured Art: St. Paul’s Choir by Wenceslaus Hollar

Some of my favorite memories of us never even happened.

Like when we sang the “Hallelujah Chorus.” I’m alto, you’re baritone, and it’s
a community choir, maybe a department Christmas party. Maybe we’re at your
alma mater for the holiday concert and can’t help but join in from our seats.

Wherever it is, we know our parts, every word, not realizing we’ve learned them
over the years, overhearing the song in stores and restaurants, doing dishes,
driving home.

And the reason I know this is a memory, that this is not just a fantasy, is because
what I remember most is not the music, not even the sound of our voices. Harmony, surprisingly, has nothing to do with this.

What I remember and see again and again as they keep playing the song these
weeks of December, is how just your eyes turn, your gaze sliding slowly to the
side to meet my eyes, which are above my mouth, which is singing the exact
words you’re forming with yours—

and this is where memory turns on me, where nostalgia bares its blade: you look
forward again, a motion of such care, such carefulness, like when one’s trying
not to spill. Pure recovery.


Jill Osier‘s first book of poems, The Solace Is Not the Lullaby (2020), was selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets.

Piece originally published in NOR 13.

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